The length of time Dolph Ziggler is laid up with his storyline injury will determine how monstrous Rusev looks.
WWE can't do as it has done recently and forget the selling part of the wrestling equation. Injuries within the context of the squared circle's narratives are only as serious as the writers make them.
In The Showoff's case, a quick return to the ring would gut the significance of the attack that put him out of action. The faster Ziggler heals, the less dangerous Rusev is made to look.
On Monday's Raw, the Ziggler-Rusev feud finally got interesting when The Bulgarian Brute bent a crutch across his foe's back. After revealing that his fractured foot is now healed, Rusev proceeded to assault Ziggler, crushing his throat with the crutch.
Fans watched on as the medical staff wheeled Ziggler away on a stretcher.
WWE furthered the story on its official website. It announced, "Further evaluation by medical staff revealed that Ziggler is suffering from a severely bruised trachea. He was released from the hospital Tuesday afternoon after being monitored overnight to make sure his windpipe didn't close. He is having issues talking and swallowing and will be out indefinitely."
As savage as Rusev's attack was made to look, it makes sense that Ziggler would be suffering these "injuries."
The issue now is that WWE has to maintain that logic by keeping Ziggler on the sidelines for significant time. Had Rusev simply superkicked him, he could pop back up by the end of the night. Had Rusev thrown him through an announce table, a few days would be sufficient selling time.
Getting bashed in the neck with a crutch should put Ziggler out for weeks at the least.
One can't assume, though, that WWE will handle the timeline of Ziggler's healing right. The company has made a bad habit of mistiming returns from post-storyline injuries.
Kevin Owens powerbombed John Cena into the ring apron at Money in the Bank. The move had previously sent Sami Zayn away for over a month. It was the reason WWE gave for Alex Riley's needing surgery.
Cena, however, was up and at 'em just one week later.
Brock Lesnar destroyed Kofi Kingston at the Beast in the East live special in Tokyo on the Fourth of July, drumming him against the mat with suplex after suplex.
Lesnar's violent thrashing had no ill effects on Kingston just two nights later, though. Kingston wore no tape around his ribs. He didn't even have a slight limp.
And when Lesnar threw Jamie Noble into the guardrail, breaking his ribs in real life, WWE decided to have the stooge back on Raw the next week. Here was an opportunity to portray Lesnar as such a beast that even on a night when he's dogpiled and beaten down, he leaves destruction in his wake.
Noble's rib injury wasn't planned. As Justin LaBar wrote for TribLive, "It was a well-timed accident, which nobody in decision-making seemed to appreciate."
Yet WWE chose not to milk it. He was back at work far too soon. Noble should still be in bed.
His absence should be a reminder of Lesnar's power.
The company now has a chance to get things right with Ziggler. Keep him off TV at first. And when he returns, the effect of Rusev's brute force should be obvious.
Put a neck brace on him or make him unable to speak. Just don't move on from the attack right away.
Remember that Ricky Steamboat was out of action from the end of November 1986 to January the next year when Randy Savage crushed his larynx with the ring bell. Delaying his comeback made Steamboat's eventual revenge that much sweeter.
WWE can get a similar result by showing patience with Ziggler.
Even if he shows up at Battleground, it should be as a hobbled man trying to play hero by ignoring doctor's orders. The last thing WWE can do, though, is let Ziggler shake off his storyline injury like he was a superhero dusting himself off after being thrown through a building.
This is an opportunity to generate sympathy for Ziggler and elevate Rusev, all the while setting up the emotional power of the climax of the story. It's an opportunity that can't be rushed.